14 July 2023

The launch of Threads, has one of the walled gardens just got a bit bigger?

Our Digital Executive Director Joseph McKenna, delves into the launch of META’s Twitter rival, Threads, and starts to lift the lid on the impact it may have on our lives and what it means for advertisers too.

For those of you who are of a curious persuasion, you may well have woken up on July 6th with a new app downloaded on your device. META’s Threads is billed as the ‘sanely run’ rival app to Twitter, and has generated huge amounts of interest (and sign ups) in a matter of days. Threads passed 100 million global users in 5 days: faster than ChatGPT, TikTok, and many other rival apps managed to achieve. Of course it does help that there are over 2.35 billion pre-registered users over on its sister app, Instagram, but still very impressive for an app and social network which isn’t available in the EU yet!

Like Twitter, Threads is primarily a text based social network. User experience is scarily similar, even Zuckerberg played up to this in his first tweet in over 10 years when he tweeted on the morning of July 6th (see the often overused spiderman/spiderman meme) - but it also seems Zuck has taken inspiration from other platforms. The most obvious omission from Threads, on initial use, is that you see content from accounts and profiles you don’t even follow. This open feature has been hugely popular to TikTok, but it remains to be seen whether this will work in a Thread world - particularly considering the carefully curated follow list was one of the main reasons Twitter became so popular in the first place. 

Do we need another app?

Everyone in the media world has followed the controversial updates that have taken place over at Twitter HQ since the arrival of Elon Musk. It seems the most recent announcement of Tweet Limits has triggered many frustrations with its loyal user base, and perhaps further accelerated the explosive uptake of Threads.

Trust in online services, such as Twitter, is at a low amongst the general public and advertisers alike. High-profile brand safety concerns have once again hit the front page of newspapers in recent weeks with both Twitter and Google making headlines. Threads has the opportunity to buck this trend, and everything heard so far from META suggests there is the focus on creating a positive online space, but whether this becomes a reality remains to be seen.

From a general public perspective, META will be pleased with the trend of uptake and Zuckerberg has publicly announced that sign ups are growing faster than expectations. But in a world which is becoming increasingly fragmented and the competition for attention is only intensifying, could this provide the impasse moment where some people reject the idea of another new app? I guess the answer to this is still unknown and dependent on the future of Twitter and Threads -  is there room in people's lives for both?

What does this mean for advertisers?

At this moment there are no paid for advertising opportunities on Threads, and META have suggested that they are holding off until they have 1 billion users - it might also be so they have some time to resolve the data privacy concerns which are holding back their launch into the EU. But that shouldn’t prevent brands from dipping their toes into this space.

Unlike other platform launches, brands will benefit from having an already established following base, due to the syncing from Instagram accounts. This then provides an opportunity to create meaningful engagement with followers in a space which is less cluttered than others, albeit it is starting to get a bit busy. Brands like Netflix have dived in head first, borrowing their content approach from Twitter, but with a new platform comes a new opportunity for advertisers to find a new voice, one that is authentic and goes direct to what their loyal customers want to hear.

The long term opportunity for advertisers though could be powerful. Social has seen increasing fragmentation in recent years, with platform diversification only increasing with the proliferation of more and more platforms: Next Door, BeReal, WeAre8, etc. And this has provided advertisers with a challenge on managing media in an ever increasingly fragmented space. With Threads, META has just made their walled garden ever so slightly bigger and no doubt this will come with advantages over consistent audience definition, frequency management and greater budget control. All in all it could result in more effective media investment from a Paid Social perspective, and provide unique benefits for advertisers, as well as META themselves.

A view from mSix&Partners

It remains to be seen whether Threads will stick around for the foreseeable future but the data suggests there is an element of curiosity which is driving initial engagement. I must admit it was quite exciting watching from the sidelines seeing people experiment with content on the new platform - but everything feels a bit chaotic at the moment. It seems remiss not to have a section of accounts that you actively follow, and the fact you follow the same people as on Instagram overlooks the fact that these platforms play a different role in our lives. Just because I like your filtered photos of flat whites, doesn’t mean I necessarily want to know your thoughts on all cultural aspects of life - so a bit of a purge on followers is definitely required.

Until that is in place, the navigation feels a bit forced. Over the last few days I've had to consciously check in on Threads to see what's going - whereas opening Twitter is almost an autopilot, because I know I’m going to see content I want to see. I have no doubt META will introduce these features soon, they have a very successful track record of ‘borrowing’ ideas from their counterparts, so perhaps this will see a greater shift from Twitter to Threads.

mSix will be in close comms with META for any new ad products they might offer at some point in the future.  We will also have more to share on the organic opportunity for brands with Threads in the coming days/weeks when more is known around the app, its intended usage, and market-level adoption.

To Summarise

It is of course too early to draw many conclusions on the impact Threads will have on society and the advertising industry. The information we do have available would suggest that there is lots of energy behind making it a success. The continued battle between Threads and Twitter will be a fascinating watch, and it remains to be seen whether there is room in our everyday lives for both. But what is clear is that with the intent of launching Threads, META have made a big step in growing their importance in an increasingly complex Paid Social vertical.

Further Reading